Church of the Holy Family in Sewell hosted a Stephen Ministry Introductory Workshop on March 21, providing attendees with information on the initiative which trains individuals to be confident and caring Christian men and women for those suffering through difficult times.
A total of 135 attendees from 20 parishes in the Diocese of Camden, and from 11 other Christian congregations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, came to the parish’s Aquin Center for an all-day presentation led by Galen Dalrymple, a Stephen Ministry leader from Atlanta, Ga.
A world-wide ministry named after St. Stephen, one of the first deacons called by the apostles to serve in the community, the effort was created in 1975 by Dr. Kenneth Haugk, a Lutheran minister and clinical psychologist. Today, there are more than 600,000 Stephen ministers serving in 12,000 congregations in the United States, Canada and 24 other countries.
In 2011, Stephen Ministry began in the Diocese of Camden at Church of the Holy Family, introduced by Father Sanjai Devis, parochial vicar, and under the leadership of Father Robert Hughes, then pastor and now vicar general of the diocese.
In the past four years, 56 Stephen Ministers from Holy Family have been trained on listening, dealing with grief, assertiveness, and skills to help individuals who are adjusting to such difficulties as a new stage in life, illness or the death of a loved one. Once a week, these ministers meet with those they are helping, in a confidential, caring, encouraging and prayerful atmosphere.
Noting that he was “very happy” with the attendance last Saturday, Father Devis added that parishes such as St. Gianna Beretta Molla in Northfield have already begun Stephen Ministries, and hopes it continues to grow in the diocese.
“It’s a great gift to any parish. Since it began at my parish, ministers at Holy Family have served over 100 people, not only at the parish, but outside parish boundaries, and even to non-Catholics, so they can experience God and re-connect with the church,” he said.
After the workshop, people left “feeling enthusiastic, motivated and excited,” remarked Deacon Jerry Jablonoski, director of Home and Parish-based Healthcare Services for the Diocese of Camden.
“The need for Stephen Ministers here is evident,” he said, adding that his office is working on providing grant and scholarship assistance to parishes that send individuals to the required 50 hours of training to become ministers.
For more information on Stephen Ministry, go to www.stephenministry.org